The Phenomenon Part 2: The Caving Trip
This is a continuation from The Phenomenon Part 1: A Day With the Squeeze Box posted a few weeks ago.
I wanted to do something special on this trip for the kids who decided to go with me to the Phenomenon.
Being as we’re in Virginia I thought it would be nice to explore a cave that we haven’t been in before. Well ahead of time I tapped my network of cavers to ask around if anyone in VA would be interested in taking us to a beginner cave.
Eagerly the call was answered by Tom Tucker, Ellie Florance, and Earl and Cheryl Suitor from Front Royal Grotto in Virginia.
We made arrangements to meet them at the Skyline Caverns parking lot and explore Allen’s Cave which is just next to the commercial cave.
Man did it rain Saturday evening and through the night. Nothing washed away, but I did find I have a leak in my tent that needs to be patched. Sleeping was a little uncomfortable. Instead of a good night’s sleep I’ll can it a really good nap.
Just like the day before everyone was getting up one at a time. The rain was holding off and together we all made it to the dinning hall for breakfast. We grouped and talked about how we were going to pack up and check out of camp. We were still lucky with the rain and packed up all the gear, said our good buys to the rest of the contingent and Martha, Stephen, Damian and I headed to Front Royal to do a little caving.
That’s when the rain started coming down again.
By the time we rode into Front Royal it was a little after 11:00 AM and we were hungry. We did a quick stop at McDonald’s for lunch and ate in the car as we looked for our new caving friends. Just down the street we met up with them and made introduction.
It was a lot drier in the lobby of Skyline Caverns. They let us have a corner and Tom pulled out a map of Sky Line and Allen’s to show how they were related. Tom also talked a little about the history of the cave and the signatures we’ll find in there.
We jumped back in the Cherokee and followed Tom and the others up a little trail and parked to get suited up for the cave. Yes it was still raining and changing was miserable. We managed to keep most of our cloths sort of dry. I had a few extra coveralls, helmets, lights and gloves for Martha, Stephen and Damian in hops that they would be comfortable and enjoy the trip. A short 100 yard walk in the woods and we came to a hole in the ground.
The cave is gated and Tom had the key.
It was an easy entrance and you can see why it was thought to try to commercialize this back in the 1800s. Some it was leveled out to make it a little easier for “guests” of the time. There were a couple spots where we did have to climb with the aid of ladders which were there in place already.
Some of the cave was dryer, but you could see how beautiful it must have looked long ago with the rim stone pools and flow stone. Parts of the cave were wet and still growing. White calycle deposits from within the last 50 to 100 years were evident and the mud was slick.
As the kids were going off to explore the “Ballroom” Earl showed me were they were going to come out. It was a short 10ft drop to end of the passage. He hooked up a hand line and I body rappelled to greet them. We all migrated back to the “Ballroom” and looked at all the signatures on the walls. Some of them dating back to the 1800s and 2 of those were solders from the Civil War. It was awesome to look around and absorb the history of this place. This is a place I would highly recommend anyone to see if they get a chance. It’s not a difficult cave and lots of open walking passage.
It was getting close to 2:00 and we have a 4 hour drive back to Honey Brook ahead of us, so we had to cut it short there and head back out. It was still raining and managed to get changed back into our almost dry cloths, repack the Cherokee and said our good buys to Tom and his team.
Except the pounding rain the drive home was uneventful. Everyone else slept as we passed through West Virginia and Maryland. We dropped Damian off at his house and Stephen and Martha off at her house. I was home a little after 7:00 PM very tired, wet and hungry.
It was a great trip. One that will stand out in my memory and I hope it will stand out in theirs. It’s going to be a few days if not a week before I can clean and dry all the gear. This was definitely worth it.
For more pictures please visit the photo album here.
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